Impact of sea-level rise on atmospheric CO2 concentrations

Jan 13, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The rise in sea level since the last ice age has prevented us from feeling the full impact of man-made global warming. The sea level rise has resulted in more harmful greenhouse gases being absorbed by the seas. So argue Bangor University scientists in the latest issue of Geophysical Research Letters (23/12/08), an influential US scientific journal publishing scientific advances that are likely to have immediate influence on the research of other investigators.

Over the last 22,000 years, since the last ice age, global sea level has risen by 130 m. Research by Bangor scientists Tom Rippeth and James Scourse have calculated the impact of this sea-level rise on the ability of the ocean to absorb the greenhouse gas CO2 from the atmosphere.

Currently only about half of man made CO2 emissions stay in the atmosphere. The remaining 50% are absorbed by the oceans and land-based systems such as forests. The shallow continental shelf seas, such as the North Sea, are thought to play a particularly important role in absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere

Understanding the processes controlling the absorption of CO2 on land and sea is crucial to understanding and predicting future climate change. Looking at past climates helps us understand more about how our climate works.

Dr Tom Rippeth, Senior Lecturer at Bangor University's School of Ocean Sciences says:

"We are currently getting a 50% 'discount' on the climatic impact of our fossil fuel emissions. Unfortunately, we have no guarantee that the 50% discount will continue, and if it disappears we will feel the full climatic brunt of our unrelenting emission of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels."

The growth of plankton in the ocean acts as an important mechanism to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.

Professor James Scourse, Royal Society Senior Research Fellow at the School continues: "We have been looking at how the strength of this CO2 sink has increased since the last age (22,000 years ago), as sea level has risen by about 130 m. During this time the continental shelf seas have grown by 400% - flooding an area of land equivalent to twice the area of the USA.

By combining reconstructions of past landscapes with numerical models, confirmed using fossils collected from the sea bed, we have simulated the size of this CO2 sink over the past 22,000 years. In doing so we have shown that sea-level rise has resulted in a significant increase in the ocean uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere. Our results are consistent with the timing of changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration measured in Antarctic ice cores,"

However, this impact is dwarfed when compared to the impact which man has had over the past 100 years by burning fossil fuels.

The results, however, show that without the rise in sea level, and consequent flooding of the shelf seas, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would be rising at an even faster rate due to man's activities than it currently is.

In effect, past sea-level rise has helped put a brake on the impact of anthropogenic CO2 emissions on the atmosphere.

Provided by Bangor University

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User comments : 22

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Arkaleus
3.3 / 5 (12) Jan 13, 2009
"However, this impact is dwarfed when compared to the impact which man has had over the past 100 years by burning fossil fuels."

Another ad hominem assault on reason.

Mankind's contribution of CO2 per year is only 3.2% of global CO2 emissions. The rest comes from Mother nature herself. By definition, this is a tiny minority. Why the false emphasis?
John_balls
2 / 5 (12) Jan 13, 2009
You nutjobs are like religous zealots. No matter what type of evidence I can throw out to you that your religion is a made up fairy tails and myths, you would still believe it. If it wasn't for Rush Limbaugh and Sean hannity talk raidio you guys would never have an original thought.
Velanarris
3.4 / 5 (10) Jan 13, 2009
You nutjobs are like religous zealots. No matter what type of evidence I can throw out to you that your religion is a made up fairy tails and myths, you would still believe it. If it wasn't for Rush Limbaugh and Sean hannity talk raidio you guys would never have an original thought.

That's funny, I listen to neither one.

Care to show me some evidence of AGW?

By the way:

You nutjobs are like religous zealots. No matter what type of evidence I can throw out to you that your religion is made up of fairy tails and myths, you would still believe it. If it wasn't for Pachauri and Hansen you guys would never have an original thought.
Noein
1.8 / 5 (10) Jan 13, 2009
Care to show me some evidence of AGW?


Sure:

http://debunking.pbwiki.com

Not that any of those facts and evidence will change anything. The religious faith of the global warming denialists rivals that of their brethren-in-ignorance, the young Earth creationists.
GIR
3.5 / 5 (8) Jan 13, 2009
@John_balls

I would only need one piece of evidence to change my tune. If I saw geological and current evidence of warming periods in which CO2 lead temperature rise.

The data I have seen for past warming periods shows CO2 lagging the temperature rise. Looking at current data there is no correlation unless you cherry pick a decade or so.

Solar activity graphs seem to have a strong correlation though. :D
MikeB
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 13, 2009
I read the article twice and have not been able to find the word, "alarming". I think physorg may have inadvertantly left it out.
Arkaleus
3.7 / 5 (6) Jan 13, 2009
Requiring evidence and open debate doesn't resemble religious zealotry. Questioning a theory when there is contradicting evidence to stated models is intellectual honesty.

Believing without evidence is faith.
Velanarris
3.5 / 5 (8) Jan 13, 2009
Care to show me some evidence of AGW?


Sure:

http://debunking.pbwiki.com

Not that any of those facts and evidence will change anything. The religious faith of the global warming denialists rivals that of their brethren-in-ignorance, the young Earth creationists.

There is not one piece of evidence on there. Perhaps I wasn't looking hard enough. Noein, pick your favorite and post it for us.
John_balls
1.9 / 5 (9) Jan 13, 2009
I would argue with you about evidence but what good will it do. I have the following organizations that back the current theory of AGW why don't you do your own research:Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007
InterAcademy Council
Joint science academies' statement 2008
Joint science academies%u2019 statement 2001
International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences
Network of African Science Academies
National Research Council (US)
European Science Foundation
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Federation of American Scientists
World Meteorological Organization
Royal Meteorological Society (UK)
Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences
International Union for Quaternary Research
American Quaternary Association
Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London
International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics
International Union of Geological Sciences
European Geosciences Union
Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences
Geological Society of America
American Geophysical Union
American Astronomical Society
American Institute of Physics
American Physical Society
American Chemical Society
American Society for Microbiology
Institute of Biology (UK)
World Federation of Public Health Associations
American College of Preventive Medicine
American Public Health Association
American Medical Association
American Statistical Association
Engineers Australia (The Institution of Engineers Australia)
Water Environment Federation
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management
Federal Climate Change Science Program (US)
Royal Society of New Zealand
Velanarris
3.7 / 5 (9) Jan 13, 2009
I would argue with you about evidence but what good will it do. I have the following organizations that back the current theory of AGW why don't you do your own research:


And that right there shows how unscientific you're being.

Organizations don't back theories. Research backs theories. Organizations play politics.
GrayMouser
3.9 / 5 (7) Jan 13, 2009
Care to show me some evidence of AGW?


Sure:

http://debunking.pbwiki.com


I match your site:
http://icecap.us/index.php
and raise you two:
http://www.climat...nal.org/
http://carbon-sense.com/

I would have raised you three but it looks like Colorado has censored Roger Pielke's group at http://climatesci...do.edu/. Probably for asking questions that the AGW crowd can't answer.
Fazer
4.8 / 5 (5) Jan 13, 2009
I don't know about the claims in the article, but something caught my eye and I would appreciate some thoughtfull responses:

The article mentions, off hand, that in the past 22,000 years, sea levels have risen by 130 meters. Please correct me if I am wrong, but 130 meters equals about 5,118 inches, divide that over 22,000 years and you get .23 inches per year.

In a recent article on glacial melt in Greenland (http://www.physor...1.html), that article cites an IPCC estimate:

"The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted in 2007 that sea levels could creep up by 18 to 59 centimetres (7.2 to 23.2 inches) by 2100 due to thermal expansion driven by global warming."

Well, .23 inches per year times the 92 years remaining, from now until 2100, equals about 21 inches, which is very close to the UPPER estimate of that IPCC prediction. So where is the effect of man if it was already going to warm at that rate?

I wonder, starting from a glacial period, and moving towards an interglacial, would the melting rate of ice be greater near the beginning, middle, end, or relatively equal throughout the warming period. My gut instinct is that more melting would occur the warmer it got, so we might even expect a completely natural sea level rise, in the next 92 years, of much greater than a mere 20-some inches.

Any thoughts?

John_balls
2.2 / 5 (10) Jan 13, 2009
OOOOOHHHHHHH, they play politics, right.(wink..wink) Now your showing your true colors. You denialist think that their are that many scientific organzations playing politics is just laughable.

Well the great thing about science is the truth will eventually prevail. Just like in the tobacco days their where kooks like you telling us that their was no connection from smoking and cancer. I believe it took a couple of decades to get the tobacco scientist to finally relent their crusade.

I'm sorry but I have to side with academia on this one not some paid oil hatchet man that would sell their own mother down the river if the money was right.
Fazer
not rated yet Jan 13, 2009
I don't know about the claims in the article, but something caught my eye and I would appreciate some thoughtfull responses:

The article mentions, off hand, that in the past 22,000 years, sea levels have risen by 130 meters. Please correct me if I am wrong, but 130 meters equals about 5,118 inches, divide that over 22,000 years and you get .23 inches per year.

In a recent article on glacial melt in Greenland (http://www.physor...1.html), that article cites an IPCC estimate:

"The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted in 2007 that sea levels could creep up by 18 to 59 centimetres (7.2 to 23.2 inches) by 2100 due to thermal expansion driven by global warming."

Well, .23 inches per year times the 92 years remaining, from now until 2100, equals about 21 inches, which is very close to the UPPER estimate of that IPCC prediction. So where is the effect of man if it was already going to warm at that rate? (correction: if it was already going to rise at that rate)

I wonder, starting from a glacial period, and moving towards an interglacial, would the melting rate of ice be greater near the beginning, middle, end, or relatively equal throughout the warming period. My gut instinct is that more melting would occur the warmer it got, so we might even expect a completely natural sea level rise, in the next 92 years, of much greater than a mere 20-some inches.

Any thoughts?


Fazer
5 / 5 (3) Jan 13, 2009
Hmmm, I see on wikipedia that sea level rise slowed over the last few millennia. Next time I'll do some research before posting.
GeorgeR
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 14, 2009
We put so much emphasis on the .033% of CO2 in the Atmosphere and tend to forget the important factors.

IMPLICATIONS OF PDO, NAO, GLACIAL FLUCTUATIONS, AND SUN SPOT CYCLES FOR GLOBAL CLIMATE IN THE COMING DECADES In a Geological Society of America abstract, Dr. Don Easterbrook, Professor of Geology at Western Washington University, presents data showing that the global warming cycle from 1977 to 1998 is now over and we have entered into a new global cooling period that should last for the next three decades. He also suggests that since the IPCC climate models are now so far off from what is actually happening that their projections for both this decade and century must be considered highly unreliable. The Pacific Ocean has a warm temperature mode and a cool temperature mode and in the past century has switched back forth between these two modes every 25-30 years (known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation or PDO). In 1977 the Pacific abruptly shifted from its cool mode (where it had been since about 1945) into its warm mode, and this initiated global warming from 1977 to 1998. The correlation between the PDO and global climate is well established. The announcement by NASA%u2019s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) had shifted to its cool phase is right on schedule as predicted by past climate and PDO changes (Easterbrook, 2001, 2006, 2007). The PDO typically lasts 25-30 years and assures North America of cool, wetter climates during its cool phases and warmer, drier climates during its warm phases. The establishment of the cool PDO, together with similar cooling of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), virtually assures several decades of global cooling and the end of the past 30-year warm phase. It also means that the IPCC predictions of catastrophic global warming this century were highly inaccurate.
lengould100
2 / 5 (8) Jan 14, 2009
Denialist's premise is that working scientists are the most politically activist group on earth, making up false data to back a false claim regarding AGW, presumeably for social aims. In my experience, the opposite would be the truth. Most scientists are too absorbed in their studies to even be aware of any social aims, and won't even talk to anyone unless to correct scientific errors.

That only leaves denialists the hypothesis that the huge majority of scientists in fields related to climate are knowingly promoting a lie in order to gain grant money. If that is true in climate science, it should also have precedents in other sciences. Though it may be that at some time there was a similar situation to validate the hypothesis, I can't think of one, and I think to carry the hypothesis there should be precedents of the same happening in a majority of other fields on other issues. Where's the majority evidence?
Velanarris
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 14, 2009
Denialist's premise is that working scientists are the most politically activist group on earth, making up false data to back a false claim regarding AGW, presumeably for social aims.
First, no, that isn't what skeptics think, nor is it what we promote as truth. We believe that some individuals directly related to the forefront of AGW theory are being coerced into toeing the line for AGW. You can't get any research done if you have no money, and as working scientists require capital to work, the leaders of the organizations will say whatever is required to continue the flow of capital into their research organizations. As this capital comes from government and in some cases the private sector, the views and goals of government and that section of the private sector will be the only ones promoted.

In my experience, the opposite would be the truth. Most scientists are too absorbed in their studies to even be aware of any social aims, and won't even talk to anyone unless to correct scientific errors.
Then your experience is myopic.

That only leaves denialists the hypothesis that the huge majority of scientists in fields related to climate are knowingly promoting a lie in order to gain grant money. If that is true in climate science, it should also have precedents in other sciences.
Which it has several. Pharmacology research is the biggest one.

Though it may be that at some time there was a similar situation to validate the hypothesis, I can't think of one, and I think to carry the hypothesis there should be precedents of the same happening in a majority of other fields on other issues. Where's the majority evidence?
Len, you've stated that the scientists against AGW are in the pocket of Big oil on several occasions. If that's true you have one reference right there. Don't forget tobacco research, big pharma, the spotted owl old growth forest research. There are literally thousands of examples of this, some of which you've touted.
Velanarris
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 14, 2009
Len, John

Let me direct your attention to two IPCC scientists' statements with regard to the AGW theory. These are both men who were involved in the writing of the summary for policy makers released in 2007 by the UN-IPCC.

"Warming fears are the worst scientific scandal in the history of mankind. When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists."

Dr. Kiminori Itoh, UN-IPCC Scientist

"The quantity of CO2 we produce is insignificant in terms of the natural circulation between air, water and soil%u2026 I am doing a detailed assessment of the UN IPCC reports and the Summaries for Policy Makers, identifying the way in which the Summaries have distorted the science."

Dr. Phillip Lloyd, UN IPCC Coordinating Lead Author

That's about all that has to be said about it.
thermodynamics
2.3 / 5 (6) Jan 14, 2009
Len and Vel:

Let me address two examples that lead to some observations that won't settle anything but that come to mind to me reading these posts. I am not saying anything about "truth" as you will see below. Instead I am stating facts as I know them about the idea of theories and prediction.

1) Recall the "cold fusion" excitement in 1989 when Pons and Fleischmann announced they had produced fusion in an electrolytic cell. There was an immediate frenzy in the research community as groups throughout the world tried to reproduce their work (including my group). It would have been in all of our interest to promote their research because it would have meant a LOT of money in the pockets of those of us who could work in the field. Instead, my group (among others) were able to to show (to 8 orders of magnitude more precision than the Pons, Flesichmann work did) that there was no fusion taking place. I was actually disappointed at the result but reported it anyway. That is what we in the scientific community do. We CANNOT prove anything. We can only disprove it. This is the scientific principle. What we do is make a hypothesis and then we try to disprove it. If, after trying as many ways as possible that we cannot disprove it we accept it as a theory. That does not mean that any theory is expected to be true, only that it is not falsifiable by any approach that has been taken to date and so is useful in making predictions.

2) Using "Cold Fusion" as an example again, there are still groups working under government funding that are trying to make cold fusion work. There have been a series of conspiracy theories about how cold fusion has been "crushed by the oil companies." Again, having worked on a project that "falsified" cold fusion as it was presented, I know that those who are promoting it as an oppressed technology should be wearing tin hats and taking more medication.

Now, the reason I brought up those two examples is to illustrate that the broad scientific body is presently working diligently to falsify the theory of AGW. They are not skeptics or denialists, they are scientists doing their job. The reality is that there is no "smoking gun" proof that AGW is not true. Instead, the scientific evidence shows that there are holes in the knowledge about AGW but that the overall theory has not yet been shown to fail to any standard of the scientific community.

That takes me back to my second point. Throughout science as well as any other organization, there are dishonest people (of course there are none in the financial world :-)). Interestingly, in the scientific world those dishonest people are aggressively targeted by those who want to keep the science clean. Those identified as dishonest are publicly disgraced. However, those who are identified as incompetent are just allowed to percolate along.

There is some effort, scrambled amid the on-going attempts by good scientists to disprove AGW, that is easily identified by those who understand science as dishonest and it does make us question how anyone could take in these obvious distortions of things such as graphs equations or stories (until we realize that those graphs, equations, or anecdotal examples are not easily understood by lay persons). There are also ridiculous claims by politicians and celebrities that are astonishing to hear claiming immediate catastrophe.

I don't know how to depolarize what should be a scientific discussion. AGW is a theory that is constantly being tested. There is no "knife through the heart" of the theory yet. There is also no "proof" of the theory (since there is never proof of any theory, just falsification). At this point, there is a massive effort underway by honest scientists to understand this complex system. No one is qualified to say that AGW is right or wrong because there is no test to tell us it is wrong and no scientific basis for claiming a theory to be right if there has not be a thorough attempt at falsification. Falsification has to be a statistically valid analysis, not anecdotes and conjecture. Show me confirmation (to me the threshold is less than 1% possibility the theory is false - I am from the physics community so the < 1% is actually a fairly loose for me) or refutation (to me that threshold is about 60% possibility the theory is false) and I will consider the theory to be reliably predictive or falsified (note I don't use the term "true"). Even if falsified, that means that the scientists then move on to see if alternatives to the theory are valid (not falsifiable). This is the on-going process of science. At the present time I have not seen anything that meets either criteria (yes Vel you have a lot of information but it does not try to quantify the falsification of the AGW theory).

However, I do know that many groups are working on falsification (as they should) and we need to pay attention to the results they are coming up with.
thermodynamics
4.1 / 5 (7) Jan 14, 2009
Clarification: After re-reading my post I realize I was not specific in that there are also some things that can be proven. For instance, it can be proven that there is water in the Pacific ocean. However, there are other things that cannot be proven but can be disproven such as the theory of relativity (which is still being tested because of the many ramifications of the theory). Relativity is predictive in nature and if a prediction is shown to be wrong it is wrong.

Now for another clarification. It is my understanding that AGW is the theory that "man-made" CO2 is raising the temperature of the Earth.

There seem to be many spawned theories about how that rise in temperature might affect climate. As I understand it, those would not be AGW but ACC (Anthropogenic Climate Change). I see a lot of ACC theories and also a lot of just speculation. I consider both AGW and ACC to be theories that are subject to falsification. Lets keep our eyes open for direct statistically measureable falsification.
Velanarris
3 / 5 (2) Jan 15, 2009
Well said.